I haven't posted here in ages. Lately I've been developing games for GBA and DS, and now Wii at WayForward, the company I work for. Our latest game (which I directed) is LIT for WiiWare, a horror puzzle action game.
Although the character in the game controls fluid like a typical survival horror game, the game itself is very rigid and classic puzzle style. You control a teenager (Jake), trapped in his high school when it's overrun by dark creatures. You have to make your way from the entrance door to the exit in each room, in order to advance through the school and (eventually) find your girlfriend. However everything is dark and if you step into the darkness, you'll get pulled under by dark creatures and have to start the level over again. So the way you progress is by turning on lights and breaking windows, to introduce lit areas that you can safely walk into. You can't introduce too much light at once (or you'll blow the fuse), so you have to turn off lights you're no longer using (only electrical objects consume power, not windows). If you blow a fuse, all lights go out and you die, restart, etc.
The game's available now on WiiWare in the US and has gotten pretty good review scores.
Anyway, my theory is that any game design worth a damn should be possible on a 2600 (or similar older system), so I took some time today and thought out LIT for that system as sort of an experiment, and I was surprised by how well it fit.
1: In this first image, you see a dark classroom, the empty fuse meter at the top of the screen, an entrance and exit door, windows, and Jake standing near the doorway. Although Jake's sprite is slightly larger than a 16x16 block, he moves in 16x16 steps (in a 320x240 resolution). Every room starts with exactly 1 tile of safe light, where Jake is standing here.
2: If the player steps into the darkness, whoops - Jake dies. And the level must be restarted.
3: So let's start a puzzle. Jake starts in the room, and he's right next to a slingshot pellet (green dot) which is on a table (grey). Jake cannot walk through tables, so they block his progress in many situations.
4: Pressing the button causes Jake to grab the slingshot pellet. Notice that his 0 pellet counter at the top right is now replaced with 1, and he has an arrow pointing next to him (part of his sprite). Pressing the button again will fire his slingshot, which breaks any object in its path.
5: The player fires and breaks the window at the right, which creates a beam of light that can be walked across.
6: Jake walks the beam (his walk in this game would be block by block, ala Frogger). When Jake gets to a certain spot, a dark red spot appears next to him. This dot indicates an electrical object (in this case, a lamp) is in the darkness. This dot will only appear when Jake is close enough to use it (adjacent).
7: The player presses the button and the lamp turns on, illuminating a 3x3 area that can safely be walked in now. Note that the lamp itself i still a blocker (can't be walked through). The lamp also makes another collectable pellet become visible. If a collectable is 1 block away from the light (or in the light) it will become visible.
8: Jake collects the pellet and gets his aiming arrow again.
9: Jake walks left. Note that his arrow is pointing left. The arrow can point in any direction. The way Jake's mobility normally works is pressing any direction makes him hop one spot in that direction. But if he has a slingshot pellet, pressing in a direction will first move the player's aiming arrow to face that direction (without moving Jake). Pressing again (when the arrow is already facing the way you press) will move Jake.
10: So pressing up once causes Jake's aiming arrow to point up, without moving Jake's location. The player is now aiming at the next window.
11: The player fires, breaking a window, introducing more light, and revealing another collectable pellet. Note that a slingshot pellet will break a lamp or window (and stop there), but it will pass over collectable objects and tables.
12: Jake walks up the beam and collects the pellet.
13: Jake aims at the next window.
14: Jake fires. Note that there is a desk blocking the player's way. There's no way to get around it right now.
15: As the player walks, they pass a lamp (which lights in red, revealing itself).
16: The player turns on the lamp, revealing another collectable pellet.
17: The player collects the pellet and aims at the next window.
18: The player fires, creating another path and revealing another pellet.
19: The player aims at the last window.
20: The player fires, creating another beam. Notice that the desk they just grabbed the pellet from blocks them from moving further down the beam.
21: The player walks up and reveals another lamp.
22: The player turns on the lamp, which causes light to reach the exit door. Almost there!
23: The player reaches the exit door and the level is completed.
Now let's take a step back and look at some other gameplay items.
24: Note that in this example, the player shot the wrong window. Their path is blocked, there are no more collectables, so they must restart the level to try and beat it again.
25: In this situation, the player has a pellet AND is standing next to a window. What happens when the player presses the button?
26: The answer: the slingshot is fired. Since lamps can be turned on and off indefinitely, the player will always fire a slingshot first when in a situation where either action could occur.
27: The player presses the button again, and the lamp is turned on.
28: In this image, note the player is next to a light that is keeping them alive. What happens when they turn it off while in this light?
29: Death of course. The light goes out, they are caught in the darkness, and Jake dies.
30: Lastly, the fuse meter. Note that it goes up 1/4 of the meter each time a lamp is turned on. The player can safely turn on 4 lamps, but this maxes the meter out.
31: Turning on one more lamp shorts the fuse, all lights go out and the player dies.
So that's the game in a nutshell. The Wii version is much more complicated, and includes boss battles and non-rigid movement, but the basic puzzling concepts transfered over surprisingly well I thought. I'd be curious to hear what you guys think about this, how close or far it is from the 2600's capabilities, suggestions, etc. I have a feeling I'm over on colors per row, and color changes per row, but otherwise I think it's all kept pretty barebones. I don't rhave plans to actually make it for 2600 (unless someone here really wanted to), but I thought it would be a fun little exercise to see how the game transferred over and challenge myself as a game designer.